European Commission opens GDS antitrust probe

The European Commission (EC) has opened an investigation
into Sabre and Amadeus to see if the GDSs are restricting competition and,
therefore, breaching European Union antitrust rules.

According to the EC, its investigation will focus on terms
in the companies’ agreements with airlines and travel agencies that could
restrict agencies’ ability to use other ticket distribution services. 

“This may make it harder for suppliers of new ticket
distribution services to enter the market, as well as increase distribution
costs for airlines, which are ultimately passed on in the ticket prices paid by
consumers,” the EC said in a statement. 

Sabre is headquartered in Southlake, Texas. Amadeus is based
in Madrid. Competitor Travelport, based in Langley, U.K., is not part of the EC’s
investigation.

In a statement, Amadeus said it would cooperate with the
investigation, “which has been expected for some time.”

“The process will confirm that Amadeus’ business
practices are fully aligned with legal and regulatory requirements,”
Amadeus said, noting that agents can choose which GDSs they work with (including
working with more than one), and airlines can decide what fares they make available
inthe GDS.

“Amadeus stands for fairness and neutrality in airline
distribution, providing nondiscriminatory and neutral market access for
airlines and choice for consumers and travel buyers,” the statement said. “It
is well documented that the neutral market provided by the GDS is facilitating
comparison and choice, thus providing European citizens with competition among
airlines resulting in lower ticket prices. Amadeus will continue to make the
case forcefully for the need for a strong and neutral marketplace for airline
distribution.”

In a statement, Sabre said it “remains committed to offering competitive access for travel agencies to airline content in the Sabre system and delivering solutions that balance value for airlines, agencies, corporations and travelers.”

Sabre said it will cooperate with the EC’s investigation “and welcome the opportunity to further demonstrate to the commission that our full content agreements and travel agency contracts are pro-competitive.”

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